Because if you do decide to upgrade to a card in the budget price range you're mentioning I believe your CPU will bottleneck the performance of the card and what real performance it could actually provide for you.
As far as a comparison goes, I've owned a couple 285's before and can tell you there will be a substantial difference in anything you get with the price range you mention, especially at the resolution you game at.
But in my opinion I would consider a general new system build. With $300 you could piece together something to cover more modern parts and hold off on the card if you wanted to.
Back to the topic at hand however, if you're really adamant about it and with the games you are mentioning, with $300 you could go the GTX 560 Ti 1GB route or Radeon 6950 route, both are about the same price. With taxes and shipping it'll put you just above the $260 mark if you live within US, outside of US not too sure. Even a 2GB 560 Ti 2gb would put you just slightly over your $300 budget but very close to within its range its a reasonable buy for your price you mention.
So your resolution is 1680x1050. Well, I'd have to say that if anything your system could use some more CPU power. If you wanted to compare your current card to something more recent I'd say it compares to the Radeon 6850 and the GTX 460 but should come in a bit slower than either card while being faster than a Radeon 5770. You'll just have to wait and see what the requirements are for those games and how they preform across various cards before making your decision. If your motherboard supports AM3 CPUs I'd say drop in a Phenom II 955BE and overclock it. As for a video card I'd say you need at least a GTX 560Ti or 6950 to have a meaningful upgrade. If you have an SLi board you could always just add another GTX280 to run in SLI .
That's true, could go 280 SLi route if your board supports it, but you've gotta be conscious about your PSU also and even then if you 280 SLi it you may get a bottleneck still from your CPU, but ya that's a good alternative also to an already existing architecture and setup you have and you would substantially spend less considering on amazon I haven't seen one run higher than $175, keep in mind they're all used, but some on there easily range from $90-110. Going on that could use whatever is left from the $300 and get a new cpu or a PSU if yours isn't adequate enough for (2) 280's.
that's the ageing cpu issue sorted for the near future at least, at about half your budget price & shouldn't have any need for a psu upgrade. the gtx 280 is still a nice powerful card, just lacking dx11. save the leftover cash from the cpu upgrade, hopefully hock your old parts & get alittle extra dough, put a few bucks away each week, should hopefully have yourself a nice shiny new gfx card in the spring
Wow, thanks for all the detailed replies guys (and gals).
I should have mentioned that my motherboard only supports AM2+ CPU's... So I don't know what's a step higher/better (tri cpu and up) from the X2 6000+. Is there anything that's AM2+ that's tri or quad ?
Jpoos linked your CPU support list. I'd get one of the Athlon II x4s, or the Phenom x4. The PhII 945 was the best CPU I saw on that list. Make sure your bios is 5001 before you upgrade however. Make sure the 945 you buy is the 95W "C3" version. If you can't afford that one, then get the Athlon II x4, 640. (again, 95W C3.) These are AM3 chips but your board can handle them just fine.
I agree with the majority of posters here who say that your cpu would limit the capability of any new card that you'd buy. Not only that, but because of the graphics capibility of your card, you'd have to spend a substantial amount to see a noticeable difference in gpu performance. With 300 dollars, I'd future proof the essential components in my computer while using the gpu for a few more months because of its power. Another benefit would be that a new cpu could ultimately boost in-game performance, but almost certainly will not detract from current performance.
My personal components of choice on a 300 dollar budget... http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Though it is a dual core cpu, the i3 is built on a more efficient, cooler running architecture, and is just as capable, if not more so than its quad core amd counterparts. The motherboard has pci express 3.0 slots and usb 3.0 ports (for the future)
280-290 dollars after tax and coupons (if applicable)